If Republicans step back and look beyond the legal and social-media spectacle of Donald J. Trump, they’ll see screaming political sirens everywhere they gaze.
Why it matters: The GOP’s political trouble has been unfolding slowly but unmistakably, starting even before Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in 2020.
- First, the 2018 House elections were a disaster for Republicans: Democrats had a net gain of 40 seats to take over the House — their largest gain since the post-Watergate election of 1974.
- Then Trump lost the presidency.
- Next, Republicans blew two runoff elections in Georgia and lost control of the U.S. Senate. The runoffs took place a day before Trump backers stormed the Capitol.
- Then, Republicans won the legal fight over abortion as Trump-appointed justices helped to ensure the reversal of Roe v. Wade. But the GOP lost a series of political battles over it afterward — a reflection of polls indicating that most Americans support abortion rights. GOP-led state legislatures have shown no signs of slowing their push to enact stricter abortion bans, suggesting continuing political backlash.
- Republicans put high-profile election deniers on the 2022 midterm ballot in key state and federal races — only to see several lose winnable elections.
- Republicans blew a chance to control the Senate by nominating too many hard-to-elect-in-a-swing-state Trump facsimiles. Their hopes of a big House majority were erased for the same reason, creating constant headaches for new Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
- Just this week, progressive Democrats triumphed in two of this year’s most consequential elections. Brandon Johnson, a teachers’ union organizer, was elected Chicago mayor. In swing state Wisconsin, Democrat-backed Janet Protasiewicz flipped the state Supreme Court to liberals in a landslide, after leaning into her support for abortion rights.
- Senate Republicans have been gifted a historically favorable 2024 map — but hard-right candidates who appeal to the GOP base again threaten to inject uncertainty into at least five winnable races.
- Trump is driving an agenda dominated by vengeance and victimhood, diverting Republicans from the inflation- and crime-centered messages that helped them in the midterms.
Reality check: Trump, if anything, is stronger and more likely to win the GOP nomination than he was after the November midterms.
- Republicans in Congress have rallied to Trump’s defense since his indictment.
By the numbers: For all his growing popularity among Republicans, Trump remains wildly unpopular nationally.
- Polls show Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who trails Trump by an average of 26 points among Republicans — would fare far better than Trump in a matchup against President Biden.
- Biden’s approval rating has hovered around 42%, a dismal figure — but still better than Trump’s.
The bottom line: Put polls aside. How likely does it seem that Trump will do better with persuadable voters than his 2020 loss when you toss Jan. 6, a 34-count Manhattan indictment and possible federal indictments into the mix?